Calls for pension age plans to be postponed

Plans to move the pension age to 68 by 2028 should be postponed, the trade union umbrella group ICTU has said.

The group’s general secretary David Begg said there were real fears over how the extending of the pension age to 68 would work — particularly the effects of the labour market on the scheme and the issue of people in physically demanding jobs having to work for longer.

Speaking on RTE’s Morning Ireland, Mr Begg said there were also concerns over the eligibility criteria that would affect the new pension age.

Under government plans, the extending of the pension age would occur in stages — first the qualifying age would move to 66 in 2014, then to 67 in 2021 and finally to 68 in 2028.

Claiming the proposed changes were “deeper and faster” in Ireland than in any other EU country, Mr Begg said: “It seems from reports that there is a significant change in the eligibility criteria in prospect.

“If it happens, it can have a huge affect on the amount of pension people will actually receive when they retire. And that is particularly important for women because many women have left the workforce during their careers, often during the child rearing years, and they come back in again.

“The practical problems of the labour market effects on it — we have to sort them out. What do you answer to somebody who’s left out of their job at age 65, and has a year or more to wait until they receive their pension? What do they do? What do they actually live on? So you have to sort that problem out.”

Social Protection Minister Joan Burton said once the changes kicked in, anyone still obliged to retire at 65 would be entitled to jobseeker’s benefit and other social welfare supports until they qualified for the state pension.

She said Public Reform Minister Brendan Howlin had promised to deliver legislation to deal with the retirement age change in the public service.

“What I am hoping is that people will be able to stay on working longer because lots of people in their 60s want to stay on working longer,” she said.

IBEC’s Brendan McGinty addressed a conference on the issue in Dublin yesterday, and said the Government should be flexible on the issue, such as someone being entitled to a lower state pension at 65 and then a higher pension if they stayed in work until a later age, if agreed with their employer.

Launching the Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2012 yesterday, Ms Burton said she intended to introduce the risk reserve requirement over an extended time period, with pension schemes given a period of up to 11 years from the re-intro-duction of the funding standard to satisfy the risk reserve requirement.

However, Mr McGinty said there was “a lot of work still to be done” and that employers were under a lot of pressure in terms of putting money aside, meaning a longer funding period was needed than that envisaged in the plan.

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